ORANGEBURG — Graduation is a happy time for everyone, but Timmerson and Alice Johnson say they have more reason to rejoice than most folks.
Their son, Austin Shperry Johnson, graduated from Edisto High School this year. He plans to study graphic design at the Art Institute in Charleston. He’s also thinking about going into the U.S. Air Force.
“I’m real proud of him,” Alice said.
In a lot of ways, Austin’s been a typical boy, according to Alice.
“For a while he was into sports,” she said. “Then he decided he wanted to devote all his time to studying.” And then along came video games.
Graduation is a milestone she thought Austin might never reach.
He came three months early. He weighed two pounds and eight ounces and he wasn’t breathing, she said.
Timmerson was rushing Alice from their home in Cope to the Regional Medical Center when they realized the baby wasn’t going to wait much longer.
“We were nowhere near the hospital and I thought: I’m not going to make it,” Alice said.
Timmerson pulled into a friend’s driveway and shouted for her to call 911. But the emergency service wasn’t able to get there in time, and Timmerson delivered the baby, who took one breath and gave a quick yelp. Then he quit breathing.
The emergency dispatcher coached Timmerson over the phone and talked him through doing the CPR procedure on his tiny son.
Timmerson prayed, blew gently into the tiny mouth and pressed on the chest as the dispatcher told him.
Austin let out a terrific scream and Timmerson knew his son would live.
By time he was 3 months old, Austin had made his family’s name known across the country. The CBS television show, “Rescue 911,” re-enacted the story of his birth.
Today, Austin drives the 1994 Honda Civic he was born in.
“I just look at the back seat every day,” he said. The kids at school get a kick out of the story.
“I go to school with a couple of cousins, and they’ll bring it up in class,” Austin said. “They’ll just laugh.”
He’s heard the tale of his birth from his parents.
“They tell me about it, and it’s pretty amazing,” he said.
As Austin begins to move on with his life, Alice says she dreads seeing him leave, but is happy that he’s healthy and able to move forward.
“I’m kind of hesitant about him going off to school, and really uneasy about going into the service, but it’s his decision,” she said.
She feels so blessed that Austin is healthy, Alice said.
“Back then, I was so worried that he wasn’t going to make it,” she said.
You hear of so many problems premature babies can have, but Austin has no real health issues, just a few problems with allergies, she said. “We were so blessed.”
“I just thank God for being in our lives and helping us to get him to the point where he is now,” Alice said. “We’re just thankful and grateful.”